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William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.

 

Talking mental health with Queen’s Bell Canada Chair

Heather Stuart reflects on how the conversation around mental health has changed since the start of Bell Let’s Talk Day and previews where her research is going next. 

[Bell Let's Talk Chair Heather Stuart]
Heather Stuart is working with a variety of prominent organizations that promote mental health to develop real-world applications of her research. (University Communications)

For more than 10 years, Bell Let’s Talk Day has been putting a spotlight on mental health in Canada. As Bell Canada Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research since 2012, Queen’s professor Heather Stuart has had a unique vantage point to see how the conversation has evolved since the annual day began. She’s also conducted significant research that continues to change understandings of mental health and influence approaches to stigma in workplaces, healthcare settings, and other areas of Canadian society.

Leading up to this year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 25, the Queen’s Gazette connected with Dr. Stuart to learn about her current research projects, hear her insights on the current state of mental health in the country, and find out how far Canada still has to go to recover from the psychological toll of the pandemic.

Now that Canada is gradually moving out of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are increasingly able to resume activities they had to give up. But there’s also a keen awareness of the toll that the past few years have taken. How would you characterize the state of mental health in Canada at this moment?

The pandemic really did cause a lot of distress to people. Mental Health Research Canada has been conducting population polls since the beginning of the pandemic, and they are monitoring things like frequency of symptoms of depression and anxiety. Before the pandemic, about seven per cent of people reported feeling symptoms of anxiety. That went up to 23 per cent during the pandemic. That’s a huge increase. In the most recent poll, it’s back down to 11 per cent of people. So it’s coming back to normal, but isn’t quite there yet. Since the pandemic, it seems to be easier for people to talk about mental health issues and have conversations around anxiety and burnout. Especially since many of us know someone who has been struggling, maybe even ourselves.

On the Bell Let’s Talk website, there are statistics related to several common mental health topics. Among them is a statistic saying opioid overdoses increased by a shocking 90 per cent during the pandemic. Is more attention being paid in recent years to potential connections between addictions and mental health?

There’s more recognition now that there’s a high degree of overlap between mental illnesses and substance use disorders. You can’t treat one in isolation of the other for a large proportion of clients. You have to treat them both together, but we used to treat them quite separately in separate systems. What you’re starting to see now is organizations integrating their services. In Kingston, for example, we have the Integrated Care Hub on Montreal Street, which provides wraparound care. That means they’ll help with everything somebody needs, including connecting them with mental health services, if that’s what they want to do.

As the Bell Canada Chair in Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research, you work on a range of important topics relevant to Let’s Talk Day and with a variety of prominent organizations promoting mental health. What is your research most focused on currently?

I’ve got a number of different projects on the go related to stigma. In every case, I’m working with an agency or organization outside of Queen’s and doing work with real-world applications.

With the Mental Health Commission of Canada, I’m doing some work on structural stigma in healthcare settings. By structural stigma, I mean the policies and practices of an organization that embed inequities for people with mental health problems.

I’m also analyzing the data from a national survey of people who have experienced stigma because of a mental health or substance use disorder. We’re hoping we can administer the survey every five years or so to use it as a monitoring system to see if progress is being made.

I’m working with the World Psychiatric Association to provide webinars on how to reduce stigma. We used to have in-person conferences on this topic every two years, but we found during the pandemic that we could attract a wider audience with online sessions, particularly from people in low- or middle-income countries.

With an organization called Workplace Strategies for Mental Health, I’ve worked to review a survey they provide to employers looking to improve mental health for their employees. We revised the questions to make them more accessible and easier to understand, then tested them and found the new versions worked very well. The revised survey has been adopted and will be used by employers across Canada.

Bell Let’s Talk Day has been recognized for more than ten years now. How have things changed since it began, for both the day and conversations about mental health in general?

In the early days, the point was to start a conversation – because there weren’t many conversations about mental health going on. Now, the conversation is well underway, and we can see that through how much interaction there is with Bell Let’s Talk Day each year. This year, Bell is focusing more on statistics and challenging us to improve mental health systems and increase access to care. It’s a big change, but I think it’s a natural progression from where we were ten years ago.

Bell has also supported the creation of two voluntary standards. One pertains to mental health in the workplace and the other to mental health in postsecondary institutions. Increasingly, this is provoking organizations to think more seriously about mental health. At Queen’s, for example, we’ve signed onto the Okanagan Charter, which lays out a path for promoting health and wellness, including mental health.

In recent years, there’s been an explosion of digital applications to support mental health and help people with self-care related to mental illness. On the positive side, now people don’t have to wait in line to get some help. They can even use online screening scales and programs to understand whether they need help, or how much and what kind. The downside is that a lot of these programs have not been evaluated yet, so we don’t know for sure how well they work. Some may work very well, but some others might not or could even be doing harm. So many digital programs have come out so fast that we’ll have to wait for the research to catch up.

Towards a healthier future for Canadian cities

Multi-institutional project receives $3M in federal funding to develop framework and resources for active transportation in cities across Canada.

A person rides a bike on the street.
Research aims to inform public policies and city planning to foster sustainable and active transportation. (Unsplash/ Flo Karr)

Cities worldwide are looking at how to promote sustainable transportation habits that will benefit both the environment and people’s health. To inform public policies and city planning related to active transportation, a pan-Canadian research project is investigating how sustainable transportation interventions can support health, mobility, and equity outcomes in cities. Queen’s researchers Jennifer Tomasone (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) and Patricia Collins (Department of Geography and Planning) are members of the research team that recently secured $3M in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to advance this work.

Co-principal investigator in this study, Dr. Tomasone is an expert in knowledge translation or implementation science, that is, understanding how to effectively put research evidence into practice. An expert in healthy community planning and healthy built environments, Dr. Collins studies how to engage people in more sustainable modes of travel, like public transit or active transportation, and the main barriers to sustainable transportation acceptance.

Jennifer Tomasone
Dr. Jennifer Tomasone

The project’s multidisciplinary team includes over 50 researchers in public health, environmental sciences, geography, and social sciences across Canada. The group will work with local government partners, city planners, and community groups to document the implementation and outcomes of sustainable transportation interventions in Kingston, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Surrey, Halifax, Saskatoon, Guelph, Victoria, and Melbourne (Australia).

Drs. Tomasone and Collins will lead the local component of the project, working with the City of Kingston.

Bicycling networks and speed reduction

The project will focus on All Ages and Abilities (AAA) bicycling networks and speed reduction strategies.

AAA bicycling networks aim to make cycling safe, convenient, and comfortable for people of different ages and abilities, including children, seniors, and new riders. Protected bike lanes and bikeways on small streets or off-street are examples of how to support this type of active transportation, as they create options for individuals who are not comfortable with cycling on major streets.

On the other hand, speed reduction interventions make the roads safer for all users, particularly cyclists and pedestrians who are disproportionately exposed to the hazards associated with excessive speed.

“The speed related conditions of our streets ultimately shape travel mode decisions that we make every day,” argues Dr. Collins. “For example, speed is often a concern in school zones. If parents are concerned about the well-being, safety, and security of their children when they come and go from school, then that incentivizes them to drive their kids to school, instead of walking or biking.”

Both AAA bicycling networks and speed reduction strategies can be built into the design of cities to support mobility for people of all ages and abilities.

Kingston context

Based on Census data (Statistics Canada), Kingston has had high uptake of sustainable transportation modes (e.g., public transit, active transportation, and carpooling) compared to other cities of various sizes across the country. These travel trends are supported by numerous municipal interventions that have helped make the sustainable choice the easy choice.

Patricia Collins
Dr. Patricia Collins

“The introduction of four express bus routes through its transit revitalization strategy dramatically drove up ridership prior to the pandemic. And, the Active Transportation Master Plan and Active Transportation Implementation Plan signal the City’s strong commitments to improving conditions for active transportation,” says Dr. Collins. “Kingston’s accomplishments to date provide a valuable learning opportunity to support the introduction of sustainable transportation solutions in other jurisdictions across the country.”

Most of the existing research literature on healthy communities and healthy cities focuses on large cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Looking at a city like Kingston is a great opportunity to understand which interventions can be successful in smaller cities, and how.

After completing the case studies in each location, the researchers will work on designing strategies and tools for city planners, policymakers, and other stakeholders. “Our goal is to generate a framework that can be used broadly for all cities to think through when they're proposing or looking to implement one of these two healthy city interventions or another intervention like enhanced public transit for example,” says Dr. Tomasone.

Dr. Tomasone expects the project to garner attention in the context of Canada's National Active Transportation Strategy, launched by the Federal Government in 2021 and that will invest $400 million in active transportation infrastructure in the next eight years.

“This project will allow us to understand where, why, how and in what contexts sustainable transportation interventions have varying success,” says Dr. Tomasone. “Once we understand the barriers that cities face when putting these interventions into practice, our team will then work towards advancing the uptake of the interventions, ultimately enhancing health and equity in our communities.”

Why do we read about accidents? Lessons from 18th-century English newspapers

News reports about accidents can deliver important moral lessons and remind us to value life.

[A stack of old newspapers]
London newspapers in the 18th-century frequently reported on the tragic and curious accidents that befell the city’s residents. (Unsplash / Fabien Barral)

If it bleeds, it leads” is a well-known maxim associated with journalism. Accident reports often attract readers, even when their headlines give away the plot. This has been true for over three hundred years, since reading the news became part of daily life in 18th-century Britain.

The Conversation logoJust four pages long, British newspapers of the 1700s had few images, no headlines and little separation between articles. Their random arrangement of news paragraphs is reminiscent of modern social media feeds without their algorithms. Jostling with news ranging from foreign military reports to book reviews, accounts of accidents occur as random shocks, nearly as surprising for the newspaper’s readers as the original accidents must have been for their subjects.

As a scholar who studies 18th-century British media, I often encounter accounts of accidents as I read old newspapers. Despite the different look of these newspapers, their readers evidently possessed an interest in spectacular, unusual and gory accidents that feels very familiar. The accidents most frequently reported in newspapers of the 1700s arise from traffic, working conditions, natural disaster and human error.

Traffic accidents

18th-century London’s narrow roads were congested with horse-drawn vehicles, pedestrians and panicky animals. Traffic accidents were frequent. Readers of the Morning Chronicle on March 9, 1784 could trace a runaway ox’s destructive path through the city:

“Yesterday morning an over-drove ox tossed a boy in Smithfield, but fortunately was not much hurt; the ox then ran down Cow-cross, and opposite Mr. Booth’s, the distiller, tossed an ass, carrying a pair of panniers, filled with dog’s meat, nearly to the height of the one pair of stairs windows, and before he could be secured terribly gored a young man, who was taken to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.”

Readers were no doubt reassured that the ox was unhurt after tossing a small boy and amused that the animal ran amuck down the appropriately-named street “Cow-cross.”

Night’ by William Hogarth circa 1738 depicts a damaged carriage on a London road. (Wikimedia)
Night’ by William Hogarth circa 1738 depicts a damaged carriage on a London road. (Wikimedia)

Traffic incidents involving notable people were particularly popular. The Morning Chronicle of April 9, 1800 reported that the Duke of York had been enjoying a ride when “a dog belonging to a driver of cattle ran across the road, and impeding the progress of the horse, the animal fell on his Royal Highness, and the Duke unfortunately being entangled in the stirrup, was dragged a considerable way.”

Luckily, two patriotic men in a passing chaise made room for the injured Duke and tipped the post-boys two guineas to carry him to a surgeon.

Waterways were equally treacherous. Pity the poor father who, having placed his child and his nurse in a boat, then saw them fall into the Thames. He “with great Difficulty took up the Nurse, but the Child was drowned: The Child had been brought that Day from Wandsworth to be seen by its Parents, and was returning when this melancholy Accident happen’d,” lamented the Daily Post of Sept. 16, 1729.

Sympathy or laughter?

Eighteenth century readers were often given emotional cues from newspapers’ descriptions of accidents as “unfortunate,” “melancholy” or “shocking.” These small adjectives had the power to transmute unseemly gawkers into sympathetic witnesses. On March 1, 1801 Bell’s Weekly Messenger reported the tragic fate of Lady Hardy:

“[S]itting alone after dinner reading, but falling asleep, her head dress approached too near the flame of the candle, and caught fire; it communicated to other parts of her dress before her Ladyship awoke. On awaking, and perceiving her situation, she inadvertently ran out into the passage, where the draught of air so much increased the flames, that she was found entirely in a blaze… she was rolled up in a carpet, which instantly extinguished the fire; but her Ladyship was so dreadfully burnt, that she lingered till four o’clock the next morning in the most excruciating agonies, and expired.”

Occasionally, a newspaper’s tone seemed more amused than sympathetic. “A few Days since as the Son of Mr. Mitchell … was felling a Tree, it fell on him,” reported the General Evening Post of Dec. 17-19, 1747. The unfortunate Mr. Bacon was struck by lightning so violently that it “made his body a most shocking spectacle,” punned the Public Advertiser of July 18, 1787.

Present-day journalists’ codes of ethics stress sensitivity and avoid intruding into others’ grief. Eighteenth century Britons’ sense of humour, however, could be ruthless.

Workplace accidents

Accounts of work-related accidents abound in the news of the 1700s. Bricklayers and carpenters plummet from scaffolding. Painters and glaziers fall through windows. Watermen drown.

As Fog’s Weekly Journal reported, one poor currier, “as he was standing on a Stool to hang up some Skins in his Shop … fell with his Neck upon the Edge of a sharp Iron used in that Trade.”

Modern journalists have a duty to inform the public about accidents, to provoke investigation into their causes and offer strategies for increased public safety. In 18th-century newspapers, there is less emphasis on preventative legislation and institutional culpability and more focus on personal diligence.

Articles often also stressed the admirable fortitude of an accident’s victim or responder. The London Evening Post on Jan. 1, 1760 reported a courageous post-boy’s efforts to deliver the mail:

“[M]istaking the Road, [he] got into a Wood where there was a great Declivity, and both Horse and Lad fell into the River, broke the Ice in one of the deepest Places, and sunk to the Bottom; the Horse could not get out, but was drowned; the Boy got hold of a Twig, and by that Means saved his Life, yet exposed it again to the greatest Danger, by endeavouring to recover the Mail, which he did, with the Saddle, to the Surprize of every one.”

Better still, the boy delivered the mail the next day. In the newspaper record, pluck and valour are celebrated characteristics.

Accidents interrupt our daily routines with their disturbing novelty. Like fables, 18th-century newspapers’ short tales of accidents deliver moral lessons on the value of diligence, empathy and courage. Stories of fatal accidents are memento mori: in their remembrance of death, they prompt us to seize hold of life.The Conversation

________________________________________

Leslie Ritchie, Professor of English Literature, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Storytelling allows elders to transfer values and meaning to younger generations

Repeated storytelling from elderly relatives doesn’t necessarily signal age or cognitive decline. It’s about conveying memories and values to a new generation.

A grandmother kisses the forehead of her granddaughter
People don’t necessarily tell the same stories over and over again because they’re losing cognitive function, but because the stories are important, and they feel we need to know them. (Unsplash/Hillary Peralta)

If you spent time over the holidays with elderly relatives or friends, you may have heard many of the same stories repeated — perhaps stories you’d heard over the years, or even over the past few hours.

The Conversation logoRepeated storytelling can sometimes be unnerving for friends and families, raising concerns about a loved one’s potential cognitive decline, memory loss or perhaps even the onset of dementia.

Our research at Queen’s University suggests there is another way to think about repeated storytelling that makes it easier to listen and engage with the stories. We interviewed 20 middle-aged adults who felt they had heard the same stories over and over from their aging parent. We asked them to tell us those stories and we recorded and transcribed them.

We used a narrative inquiry approach to discover that repeated storytelling is a key method for elders to communicate what they believe to be important to their children and loved ones. Narrative inquiry uses the text of stories as research data to explore how people create meaning in their lives.

Transmitting values

Based on nearly 200 collected stories, we found that there are approximately 10 stories that older parents repeatedly tell to their adult children.

The hypothesis was that repeated storytelling was about inter-generational transmission of values. By exploring the themes of those repeated stories, we could uncover the meaning and messages elders were communicating to their loved ones.

The ultimate purpose was to offer a new and more constructive way of thinking about stories that we’ve heard many times before, and that can be otherwise perceived as alarming.

Here’s what we have learned:

  1. There are typically just 10 stories that people tell repeatedly. While 10 is not a magic number, it does seem to be about the right number to capture the stories that are told over and over. Interviewees felt that a set of approximately 10 allowed them to do justice to their parent’s stories.

  2. Among our interviewees, a significant number of their parents’ stories – 87 per cent — took place when they were in their teens or twenties. A person’s second and third decades are a time when they make many of the decisions that shape the rest of their lives; a time when values are consolidated and the adult identity is formed

  3. What’s important about the 10 stories is not the factual details, but the lesson that was learned, or the value that was reinforced — values like loyalty toward friends, putting family first, maintaining a sense of humour even in hard times, getting an education, speaking up against injustice, and doing what’s right.

  4. Key themes in the stories reflected the significant events and prevailing values of the early to mid-20th century. Many of the stories revolved around the war, and both domestic and overseas experiences that were formative. Many of our interviewees heard stories about immigrating to Canada, starting out with very little, seeking a better life and working hard. Stories often reflected a more formal time when it was important to uphold standards, make a good impression, know one’s place and adhere to the rules.

  5. The stories elders tell appear to be curated for the individual receiving them. They would be different if told to another child, a spouse or a friend.

A younger man walks up a set of stairs listening to an elderly man.
Many of the stories elderly people told their family and friends revolved around experiences that were formative. (Unsplash/John Moeses Buaun)

Tips for listening

Our research offers some tips for listening to stories from elders:

  • Focus on just 10 stories. It can make the listening seem less overwhelming.

  • Write them down. Writing challenges us to get the story straight.

  • Notice your loved one’s role in the story, as the message is often contained in that role.

  • Be attentive to feelings, sensations, tension and discomfort. These can be signals or clues to the meaning of a story.

  • Finally, remember these stories are for you — selected and told in the context of your relationship with your loved one. As such, they are a gift from a loved one who is running out of time.

The importance of receiving stories

Storytelling is an essential human process and a universal experience associated with aging. Neuroscientists suggest that storytelling has practical survival value for individuals and communities, as well as social and psychological benefits.

It may be as powerful as medication or therapy for overcoming depression among elders. Storytelling becomes especially important when people become aware of their mortality — when they are ill, suffering or facing death.

People don’t necessarily tell the same stories over and over again because they’re losing cognitive function, but because the stories are important, and they feel we need to know them. Telling stories repeatedly isn’t about forgetfulness or dementia. It’s an effort to share what’s important.

Our hope is that by better understanding elderly storytelling, caregivers may be able to listen in a different way to those repeated stories and understand the messages they contain. Those 10 stories can help us to know our loved one at a deeper level and assist our parent or grandparent with an important developmental task of old age.

This research offers a constructive way for caregivers to hear the repeated stories told by their aging parents, and to offer their loved one the gift of knowing they have been seen and heard.The Conversation

_______________________________

Mary Ann McColl, Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Annual report highlights commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals

[Report Cover: Queen's contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Advancing social impact | 2021-2022]
Read the report: Queen's contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Advancing social impact | 2021-2022 [PDF Report 10 KB]

The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a roadmap for how we can work together to create a better world for people and the planet. Queen’s alignment with the SDGs reflects the university’s vision that our community will solve the world’s most significant challenges with their intellectual curiosity, passion to achieve, and commitment to collaborate.

For the second year, Queen’s has released a social impact report, highlighting the university’s activities in research, teaching, outreach, and stewardship that support advancing the UN SDGs. A key focus of the 2021-2022 report is recognizing the efforts made by Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni to confront COVID-19 and its unprecedented and unpredictable set of challenges.

Queen’s contributions to advancing social impact in our local, national, and international communities has been recognized by the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, the only global performance tables that assess universities against the UN SDGs. In both 2021 and 2022, Queen’s was ranked among the top 10 universities globally in the THE Impact Rankings.

This year’s report references a wide variety of Queen’s programs, partnerships, and infrastructure that align with the values of the SDGs. A few examples include the work of the Campus and Community Engagement Sustainability Sub-Working Group to advance SDG 13: Climate Action, Queen’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSe) student-run organization which is advancing SDG 5: Gender Equality to promote and encourage women to pursue STEM studies, and the launch of the Graduate Inclusivity Fellows initiative aligned with SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities where graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are contributing to strategies and programs to improve the learning experience related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity.

Housed on the Advancing Social Impact website, in addition to the report, users can find further information on key initiatives and engage with additional images and video that illustrate the community’s action and impact.

To learn more about Queen’s commitment to the SDGs and to read the report, visit the website

How to make post-secondary study more accessible?

Pairing disability counsellors with post-secondary instructors to help them design classes is one way colleges and universities can improve their efforts to support students with disabilities.

[A man sits across from a counselor and listens while she speaks]

Forty years after the enactment of Canada’s first children’s special education laws, universities and colleges have made significant strides in accessible education for adult students with disabilities.

The Conversation LogoBut positive change is not coming fast enough. And accessibility issues are not about some small minority of students. Twenty-two per cent of Canadians aged 15 years or older have at least one disability. This percentage is roughly echoed in higher education.

Many important practical approaches that galvanize post-secondary institutions’ pro-inclusion policies are carried out by disability counsellors (sometimes referred to as accessibility consultants) attached to student wellness units.

Pandemic exposed issues

The COVID-19 pandemic made existing barriers for people with disabilities more apparent.

As Tina Doyle, Director of AccessAbility Services at University of Toronto, shared with me in an interview, the pandemic revealed there is still much work to be done to make education accessible and welcoming to persons with a disability. Researchers who have documented experiences of students with disabilities in the pandemic have made similar observations.

Support for students with disabilities

Since 1986, the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) has been mandated to support education and employment for post-secondary students and graduates with disabilities.

NEADS has launched projects, resources, research, publications and partnerships and created scholarships.

Nevertheless, many readers including students with disabilities and parents or supporters may be unfamiliar with how universities and colleges are currently supporting their students with disabilities.

Employee training

Administrators at most institutions have introduced significant policies and requirements for employee training. They have undertaken new practices in a range of student support services embedded in campus life.

These include audits and reports often by human rights units, and regular facilities reviews as historic campus buildings are increasingly being retrofitted to conform to accessibility standards.

Similarly, innovative teaching and learning centre staff typically promote practical approaches among the teaching faculty, while librarians and others focus on important learning resource accessibility and supportive technologies.

Students assigned counsellors

A drawback of traditional approaches to accommodating disability has been a heavy reliance on only recognized medical diagnoses of disability.

Today many students with a disability present themselves to disabilities services units requiring assistance.

While some disability rights researchers or advocates flag that some students are inhibited from receiving accommodations due to a lack of a formal diagnosis, some disability advocates and researchers we have spoken with say there is a trend towards working with students even before they have a diagnosis.

Counsellors as advocates

Counsellors also often find themselves tasked with advocating, alongside or for students, with faculty to ensure an array of accommodations are put into practice.

Most commonly this may include having faculty follow the student’s approved need for occasional extensions on assignment due dates, extra time for test completion, use of a computer or a test centre for writing tests or perhaps access to assigned course resources in an accessible format.

Where expensive accommodations are needed by the student (such as computers, software, ergonomic modifications or staffing supports) then institutions, on behalf of government administrators, often require current diagnoses to be presented in advance.

Professors may have already selected and ordered books or uploaded their course materials to the digital learning management system long before learning that a student registered to their class has some needs they hadn’t anticipated.

Part-time staff

A significant challenge for the sector is how to train teaching faculty on the many specific practical approaches when universities and colleges employ a very high ratio of part-time instructors on short-term contracts.

Disability counsellors report sometimes expending significant energy communicating with teaching faculty about using what should be seen as simple inclusive strategies that students have a right to, or convincing them of the necessity.

Promoting universal design

What more can be done?

A clear way to measure the commitment to promoting inclusion of those with disabilities can be found in policies supporting equity, diversity and inclusion and those that commit the institution to promoting universal design for learning approaches by their teaching faculty and staff. In recent years NEADS has come out as a strong proponent of the approach.

Universal design for learning is aimed, in part, at addressing accommodation needs. It has been also shown to support learners with disabilities along with needs of international students, first-generation students and many others.

Some centres for innovative learning in post-secondary institutions in the United States, and less so in Canada, have promoted partnerships between teaching faculty and disability service staff such as disability counsellors.

Humber College study

A recent Canadian project undertaken by a team at Humber College, and studied by this story’s first author, found that connecting teaching faculty with a learning specialist and disability counsellors was key to supporting greater implementation of universal design. This echoed findings in other contexts.

In the Humber project, teaching faculty were connected with an innovative learning centre specialist. They were also able to leverage considerable knowledge and commitment of the institution’s disability counsellors.

An important factor in their ability to design accessible courses with supportive expertise was their employer allowed them to formally allocate time to this kind of work.

Supporting student success

Over the 14-week redesign project period studied, disability counsellors were able to make substantial contributions within about 90 minutes per week. The collegial support that all participants reported broke down some of the isolation that faculty sometimes experienced while redesigning courses.

It also built up trust as participants, whether teachers or disability counsellors, learned to better appreciate the challenges of each other’s complex roles in supporting student success.

Employing the considerable knowledge and experiences of disability counsellors in novel ways may provide substantial guidance to some areas where institutions can improve their support efforts.

Maggie Lyons-MacFarlane, outgoing chairperson of the board of directors of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students, and New Brunswick director of the organization, co-authored this story.The Conversation

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Philip Burge, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

The science of gender, sex, and sexuality

Sari van Anders investigates how social experiences impact our identities, our bodies, and our research.

[Colourful ribbons with terms of gender, sex and sexuality written on them]
Dr. Sari van Anders is the author of sexual configurations theory, a tool to deepen our understandings of gender/sex and sexual diversity. (Unsplash/ Patrick Fore)

What is gender? Is gender tied to sexuality – if yes, how? How do sex and gender differ? The way we conceptualize gender and sex impacts the way we think of ourselves and others, and how we organize our societies. It also can bias our research, for example, when we focus exclusively on biological explanations for gender differences. Could new feminist and queer perspectives in science challenge the status quo and lead us to new understandings of human biology and behaviour?

Sari van Anders, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Canada 150 Research Chair, believes they can, and should. She is a leader in the fields of feminist science, gender, and sexuality and has been researching social neuroendocrinology for over a decade.

Sari van Anders
Dr. Sari van Anders

Dr. van Anders is also the author of sexual configurations theory, a tool to deepen our understandings of gender/sex and sexual diversity. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including, in 2022, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching of Psychology as a Core STEM Discipline Award from the American Psychological Association's Board of Educational Affairs.

In this interview, Dr. van Anders talks to the Gazette about her research program and commitment to promoting social change within academia.

Your research focus is social neuroendocrinology. What is that, exactly?

It’s the study of hormones and behaviour in a social context.

People typically focus on how hormones influence behavior. From a feminist perspective, we understand that that's because our culture often looks to biological explanations for gender inequities, in what is often called biological determinism. I've long been really interested in what we could call the reverse relationship or how our social behaviors change our hormone levels. Our results suggest gendered behaviour can actually change hormones like testosterone.

This can radically alter how we envision what is sex, what is gender, and even nature/nurture debates. And it’s one reason why I use the term “gender/sex”: so much of the biological phenomena I (and others) study are also sociocultural.

The way we study human biology, behaviour, and sexuality is framed by our conceptions about gender and sex. Is sexual configurations theory (SCT) a way to address this issue?

Heteronormativity directly impacts people’s lives in many ways, including that it limits what kinds of knowledge we have available to us about gender/sex and sexuality, and whom that knowledge serves.

SCT is a new and broader way to conceptualize and model gender, sex, and sexuality. I am really excited about SCT as a potential starting point for sexual diversity studies and research because it includes many important aspects of how people understand their own sexuality – not only genitals, or sexual attractions.

We developed diagrams where people can mark where they see themselves in terms of diverse aspects of sexuality, and also their own gender/sex. And we added this to a “zine”, a sort of mini-graphic novel/magazine in plain language, that people can use to reflect on themselves and their sexuality. I’m so excited that it’s been translated into three languages, with two more coming! And, we are now working with others in the field about how to use SCT with clients in therapy, counseling, and clinical contexts. People learn something new about themselves with SCT, and many have told us how this is the first time they’ve ever seen themselves in science.

A zine about Sexual Configurations Theory
A digital, open-acess "zine" explains sexual configurations theory in plain language.

Why is it important that you work from feminist and queer science perspectives?

Even though some people still believe that science should be politically neutral, scientists already are bound by all sorts of political considerations, whether these are ethical, funding-related, environmental, or other. And these considerations should include feminist and queer considerations.

Feminist research is crucial because our world has inequities related to gender and intersecting axes of oppression. If we don’t want to support this status quo, we need to work against it. Our science needs to tackle gender inequities and oppression to get to more equitable worlds.

Related to but not the same as feminist science, queer science is a way to do research about phenomena through multiple lenses, showing how dynamic they are. Queer and science go well together because they push us to challenge and even transgress accepted wisdom. Queer science questions scientific and empirical truths, and cultural understandings of bodies, social norms, and sexuality.

Do these perspectives have an impact beyond gender/sex and sexuality research?

They are relevant to any field of research because we’re all humans who have been socialized within oppressive systems. Science isn’t just the topics we study or the questions we ask, but also how we do our work, whom we do it with, how we communicate it, lab practices, academic conferences, and so much more. From neuroscience to theoretical physics to math to cell biology, there is compelling scholarship and science that shows the value of feminist and queer approaches.  

How do you expect your work to foster social change within academia?

Science needs to be meaningful to and reflective of all of us, taking inequities into account, working against them, and working towards more liberatory aims. We need to rethink our methods, our questions, and our epistemologies or ways of knowing.

In our lab, we build knowledge frameworks that draw on insights from and are meaningful to people in marginalized social locations. This can help them (us!) make sense of their own gender, sex, and sexualities and work towards change. It also helps people outside of these social locations to understand the reality of diversity. Finally, it helps make clear that existences are informed by intersections that reflect oppression and/or privilege, including neurodiversity, dis/ability, race/ethnicity, immigration status, body size, and so much more. This helps our science and scholarship be more accurate, empirical, and just.

Five steps for tackling Canada’s long-term care crisis

Canada’s long-term care sector was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapidly climbing patient deaths, a lack of safety provisions coupled with already-precarious employment and difficult working conditions took its toll on the mental health of health-care workers.

Yet, wellness in the long-term care sector is rarely discussed. Distress due to difficult working conditions is often dismissed as a part of the job description. Workers are expected to “suck it up” and manage their own emotions on their own time.

The sector is currently being held together by a very vulnerable workforce and it is situated to fail without immediate intervention.

Support for self-care and protection from moral distress

In our research, we examined the impacts of two critical psychological safety factors on the long-term care workforce amidst the COVID-19 pandemic — support for self-care and protection from moral distress. Health-care workers expressed the increased need for resources to support their well-being and to address longstanding workforce issues. Five recommendations for a stronger long-term care sector are proposed.

1. Address long-standing structural issues

Structural issues have been brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes issues that are economic, social and organizational in nature.

While the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges facing the long-term care sector, workers stated that these issues are not new. Rather, decades of neglect and lack of funding has made low pay and unsafe working conditions acceptable.

The pandemic intensified existing problems with staffing shortages. In 2020, long-term care staff members made up more than 10 per cent of Canada’s total COVID-19 infection cases. Further, restricting informal caregivers from entering homes contributed to increased workloads.

Institutional support for any sort of resource (mental health, personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing) was stretched thin to keep care homes running. Resource limitations kept the hands of management teams tied, suggesting that distress was endemic across the sector.

2. Continuing education and training for self-care

Supporting staff through continuing education and training can increase their capacity for psychological self-care and help protect them from moral distress.

Continuing education and training can significantly improve psychological well-being among long-term care workers. Communication-focused training approaches have resulted in improvements in staff turnover, depression and anxiety. Self-compassion and acceptance-based approaches found a significant reduction in mental health symptoms.

Educational sessions connect staff with other staff, allowing them to share their expertise and frustrations — helping to alleviate conflicts and tensions amongst teams. Virtual forums can be used for peer-to-peer learning, community building and moral support.

Training must be made available to all staff. Our study found that unregulated staff such as personal support workers were often not invited to take part in training programs or company resources.

3. Invest in leadership development

Improved leadership can foster improved team functioning.

Bullying and gossip is particularly rampant in the long-term care workplace. Workers expect one another to work through distress and asking for a day off can be seen as a weakness and increasing the workload for others.

Supportive managers are critical to the psychological well-being of staff. A study on transformative leadership found a reciprocal relationship between leadership, self-reported staff well-being, team efficacy and self-efficacy — leading to job satisfaction and well-being. Transformative leaders encourage employees to create change inwardly by connecting professional goals to a wider sense of belonging in their workplace.

Underfunding and resource constraints make it difficult to provide meaningful and accessible supports, reducing workers’ ability to protect themselves against moral distress in the workplace.

4. Ensure safe working conditions

Insufficient personal protection equipment (PPE) at the workplace was a concern for workers in the sector. Staff shortages and lack of knowledge from management contribute to poor infection control and safety. Low wages and limited benefits also place workers in vulnerable situations, with limited options to practice physical and psychological self-care.

Funneling resources and funding into this sector will not only improve staffing. It is critical for reducing the rapid turnover caused by uncontrolled exposure to COVID-19.

5. Supportive human resource policies

Long-term care needs to develop and/or improve human resource policies that support workers and acknowledge their value.

Low wages and precarious employment characterize this sector. Workers were fearful to take time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine for fear of losing wages.

Part-time and contract workers in the sector, often personal support workers, are not eligible for medical benefits and must pay out-of-pocket for injuries incurred at work. Many of these workers are racialized, immigrant women. Workers also often do not have entitlement to paid sick days. These factors point to systemic discrimination and undervaluing compared to other professionals in the sector.

A call to action

The Royal Society of Canada argues that the very first step to tackling the long-term care crisis is through workforce reform and redesign. This not only addresses low wages and resource shortages but serves more importantly to rebuild trust and dignity. To bolster support for the sector, public awareness and advocacy play a key role in advancing health-care reform.

_______________________________________________The Conversation

Sophy Chan-Nguyen, Research Associate, Queen's University and Colleen Grady, Associate Professor, Family Medicine, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Graduate student receives national award for research innovation

Queen’s researcher recognized for creating support programs for families of children with  neurodevelopmental disabilities.

The pandemic brought many changes to daily routines and family dynamics. As more time was spent at home and in-person support systems became unavailable, many families who were experiencing aggression in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities saw problematic behaviours increase.

Maude Champagne and James Reynolds
PhD student Maude Champagne, seen here with James Reynolds, a professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, received an award from Mitacs for Outstanding Innovation.

Maude Champagne is a neuroscience PhD student at Queen’s who focuses her research on neurodevelopment disabilities and intervention techniques which help families mitigate aggressive behaviour in youth.

During the pandemic, Champagne was responsible for developing three collaborative projects in partnership with not-for-profit organizations that provide disability support services including ABLE2, Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN), and Adopt4Life.

Champagne’s research efforts recently earned her a national award for Outstanding Innovation from Mitacs – a non-profit organization which partners with universities, the federal government, and various provincial governments to develop solutions that will improve the quality of life for Canadians.

Celebrating research excellence

Champagne attended a celebratory event at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa where she was presented with the award and met with Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop. This year’s event saw a total of eight awards given out, and Champagne being the only PhD student to be recognized. 

“Mitacs support allows our researchers to partner with various stakeholders – from governments to industries to not-for-profits – to develop impactful solutions to improve quality of life for all Canadians,” says Jim Banting, Associate Vice-Principal, Partnerships and Innovation. “Congratulations to Maude on this national recognition of research that makes a difference to children with disabilities and their caregivers.”

Trauma-informed approach

Champagne has a personal connection to the topic of family dynamics as a mother of five children, four of whom have neurological disabilities. Her personal experience as a parent of children with disabilities provides a unique perspective on the challenges faced by families and caregivers.

As part of her work with the Kids Brain Health Network, Champagne helped implement a Fetal Alcohol Resource Program, and later took part in the KBHN-Mitacs internship program which provided a $20,000 stipend to work with community partners such as ABLE2 to assess the innovations of virtual programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To collect this data, a survey and qualitative interviews were administered to understand the needs of families raising children with a neurodevelopmental disability.

Using the findings of the survey, Champagne helped lead Canada’s first-ever nonviolent resistance (NVR) therapy program, the first National Consortium on Aggression Toward Family/Caregivers in Childhood and Adolescence (AFCCA), and a new AFCCA Family Support Program at Adopt4Life.

“At the end of the day, we want to help people, and being recognized by Mitacs will make more people aware of the research that we're doing, and get interest from policymakers, clinicians and families,” says Champagne. “I plan to keep participating in programs like the AFCCA Consortium after completing my research, and continue to raise awareness so families know that they are not in this alone”

To learn more about Champagne’s research visit  Kids Brain Health website.

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